On This Day In Space: July 31, 1971: Apollo astronauts drive on the moon (Image Credit: Space.com)
On July 31, 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts drove on the moon for the first time.
David Scott, the commander of Apollo 15, and James Irwin, the lunar module pilot explored the moon for three days by driving around in the lunar roving vehicle. Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden remained in orbit around the moon. This moon buggy was folded up and stowed inside the lunar module and deployed after landing. Unpacked, it measured about 10 feet long, 7 feet wide and 45 inches high.
For their first drive, Scott and Irwin went to Elbow Crater to gather samples and take photos. Throughout their stay on the moon, they drove more than 17 miles.
The lunar rover could travel up to 8.6 miles per hour and allowed the astronauts to venture farther from their landing site than previous Apollo astronauts could.
The Apollo 15 mission launched to the moon on July 26, 1971. The mission landed on July 30, with Scott and Irwin ultimately performing three moonwalks in addition to their lunar rover test drive. The Apollo 15 crew left the moon’s surface on Aug. 2 and left lunar orbit on Aug. 4. They returned to Earth on Aug. 7, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
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